Congress’ lame-duck session is forcing lawmakers to make important decisions affecting the future of medicine before a new Congress convenes in 2013.
Tough decisions will have to be made, but the AMA’s position is clear: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle must make stopping a 26.5 percent cut to Medicare physician payments, driven by the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula and scheduled for Jan. 1, a top priority. They also must put in place a transition to a higher-performing Medicare program, beginning with permanent repeal of the SGR.
You can help. Contact your members of Congress through the Patients’ Action Network website or by using the the grassroots hotline: (888) 434-6200.
Urgent issues on the table revolve around the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which threatens a number of drastic tax and spending policy changes, including:
- Across-the-board spending cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011. Required to total $109 billion per year, these cuts affect both defense spending and domestic programs, including a 2 percent cut to Medicare physician payments.
- Expiration of the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. The tax cuts include individual rates, capital gains, dividends, child tax credit expansion, marriage penalty reduction and the estate tax.
- a patch to the alternative minimum tax. If left unchanged, 28 million Americans would face a hefty additional tax liability.
- Expiration of the 2 percent payroll tax cut.
- Medicare physician payment cuts of 26.5 percent, which are called for under the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.
- Miscellaneous business tax provisions (also referred to as “tax extenders”).
- Unemployment benefit extension.
- Affordable Care Act tax provisions.
A critical piece of this is putting a stop to the Medicare physician payment reductions—totaling nearly 30 percent between the Budget Control Act and SGR cuts—that threaten physicians and their patients. Comprehensive reform of the Medicare physician payment system is sorely needed. And physicians are ready to lead the way toward a new and innovative models that will stabilize the Medicare program and promote high-quality, high-value care.
But first, Congress must act responsibly and stop the scheduled Medicare SGR cuts before it’s too late.